SVOU honors Tuskegee Airman from Michigan

Guests+prepare+to+watch+the+documentary+%22Luft+Gangster%3A+Memoirs+of+a+Second+Class+Hero%22+presented+by+Student+Veterans+of+OU.
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SVOU honors Tuskegee Airman from Michigan

Guests prepare to watch the documentary

Guests prepare to watch the documentary "Luft Gangster: Memoirs of a Second Class Hero" presented by Student Veterans of OU.

Elyse Gregory

Guests prepare to watch the documentary "Luft Gangster: Memoirs of a Second Class Hero" presented by Student Veterans of OU.

Elyse Gregory

Elyse Gregory

Guests prepare to watch the documentary "Luft Gangster: Memoirs of a Second Class Hero" presented by Student Veterans of OU.

Laurel Kraus, Staff Reporter

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The Student Veterans of Oakland University (SVOU) honored Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson on Nov. 22 through a screening of the award-winning documentary “The Luft Gangster: Memoirs of a Second Class Hero.”

Born and raised in Detroit, Jefferson is only seven Tuskegee Airmen still alive today. The event took place on his 95th birthday.

“Happy birthday to me . . . ” Jefferson sang when a group of attendees asked him about it.

SVOU President Ivan Rose spoke about how rare it is to have the chance to experience history before introducing Mike Rott, producer and director of “The Luft Gangster,” and Rott’s father, Sheldon Rott, who was also co-producer and music director of the film.

“The way this all came about, I met a friend about 3 1/2 years ago now, and he said, ‘The organization I’m in is sponsoring a lecture and we’re having a Tuskegee Airman speak,’” Sheldon Rott said.

“When I had the opportunity to hear this lecture, it was Lt. Col. Jefferson, and it was overwhelming. Mike, who had been with Apple Company, opened his own studio at that time. I said, ‘Mike, we have to do something.’”

Starting just a few minutes after 6:30 p.m., the documentary opened with the definition of “luft gangster.”

“’Luft’ means ‘air,’” Jefferson’s voiceover played through the speakers. “The Germans called American fighter pilots ‘Luft Gangsters.’ ‘Air gangsters,’ from a German point of view. To us, we were simply doing our job.”

The documentary went on to recount the racial hardships of Jefferson’s life, long before he even made it to the military.

Then, through firsthand accounts, including Jefferson’s, the film described what it was like to be a part of the first African American aviators in the United States Armed Forces.

The documentary even delved into Jefferson’s time in a German prison camp and what he experienced there.

Afterward, when an audience member asked Jefferson about the comparison between slavery and the Holocaust he stated, “There is no comparison.”

The audience erupted in a standing ovation for Jefferson after the film ended.

He was then handed a microphone and answered audience questions for over 20 minutes.

Representatives from Team Rubicon and Pontiac Vet Center were in attendance, as well as Nick Star from the VFW National Home for Children, who accepted monetary donations and Christmas gifts for the children of veterans and active-duty military families.

At the end of the event, a birthday cake was brought out for Jefferson and the audience was invited to share.